Remember the gnarly cowboy scout who could look at the river bank and tell that 20 men crossed three hours ago? He could read the signs.

We all can express our inner gnarly cowboy scouts with Google…sort of.

For example, Google knows when and where flu season starts by watching when and where searches like “flu symptoms” and “flu remedies” start to rise.

It’s most recent “Ah-ha,” for marketers at least, comes from its watching the rise of different types of searches.

People are searching differently, so says Google, which means to me we need to change the type of content we include on our websites. People are searching more to educate themselves, they’re searching earlier in the decision cycle, and they’re searching to understand more about the experience. Said simply: people are searching more to avoid surprises. Surprises when they travel (Dallas hotels near parks, Nashville bars with live music, South American airlines reviews). Surprises when they buy (best warranty on garage doors, can you bring guests to Planet Fitness). And surprises when they’re looking for a new vendor (reliability testing package bay area, best canoe outfitting recommendations for boundary waters).

What information are your prospects looking for (Information that might not be directly associated with what you sell)? What can you tell them on your site that builds comfort and minimizes surprises?

Start by asking your new customer contact people what types of questions they get.

Plus, Google offers great information a few different ways, but you need a Google AdWords account to use the better ones. All are free. If you have active campaigns, study people’s search queries (the actual words and phrases people type in): campaign>ad groups>search terms. You can see what search queries people are using and start to learn what they’re looking for. If you aren’t using AdWords, it’s worth starting a campaign, pausing it (so you aren’t spending money) and using this tool: Google’s Keyword Planner. It lets you enter a keyword or phrase and it returns 600-800 related searches.

Another Google tool is Google Trends, which anyone can use. This lets you see the number of searches over time for a keyword or phrase. It also lets you compare searches (boundary waters canoe rental versus boundary waters outfitters, for example). You can see how searches are trending; up, down, flat. I don’t like it as much as the other two, but it can be instructive.

We used to search only on “Men’s hiking boots size 12.” Now we search on “hiking boot reviews”, “new innovation in hiking boots”, “compare waterproof hiking boots”. What does this mean for you? For some of our clients it has meant:

  • A downloadable PDF to visitors understand what the process is like when they use a construction contractor like our client. Downloads are converting at just over 1% for the PDF.
  • A page that lays out expectations.
  • Links on canoe rental pages that offer information on outfitting, area maps, and gear lists.
  • Functionality on the site that recognizes mobile searches and serves different content. We believed people searching on their phone were in the field and needed immediate information from this testing company. Inquiry conversions from mobile traffic tripled as a result.

More comfort and fewer surprises translate into more people taking the actions you want them to take on your site. More information, and probably different information, can make the difference.